After taking a trip among the stars with science fictional tales last issue, Shimmer is back to its roots rather literally with two contemporary fantasies about family, abuse, and magic. Both of these stories look at how family shapes people, about how daughters are pressured to become vessels, how sometimes there is no option for them to prevent pain. Sometimes, though, as these stories show, it is possible to escape being the one sacrificed. The one stuck. There is a price for this, because there is always something hungry lurking, and the stories show the dark paths that sometimes are the only ones to freedom. To the reviews!
|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"Painted Grassy Mire" by Nicasio Andres Reed (3784 words)
This story speaks to me of heritage and identity, of place and person and power. Winnie is a young woman who has lost her mother and, in some ways, to half of her history and lineage in that loss. She lives in a Filipino-American community in the swamps of Louisiana, the only woman there after the death of her mother. She is connected back to a place she has never been and growing older in a place and time when she doesn't really like what she'll become. Where a woman's place is not with the men but alone and waiting. And so to me the story becomes about Winnie's desire to connect with her mother's past, with that part of her own inheritance. Which turns out to be way more badass than anything she had thought. I love the way the story evokes this place, the only one that Winnie has known. She has ties to outside America, and yet she is so strongly of America, of a deeper connection even than most people because of her knowledge and respect of the land. And so Winnie's journey to me, her transformation, becomes a way to take control of her own destiny, to choose for herself what life fits her, what skin fits her, and to hell and teeth with anyone who seeks to stop her. The descriptions here are lush and the magic dark and subtle, waiting for the right moment when Winnie can claim her inheritance and own her nature and her power. It's a story with style and flow and a dangerous sense of wonder and you should go read it. Like, now!
"The Wombly" by K.L. Morris ( words)
Well then. This is a story that to me is about families and passing along abuse, about being someone living under the threat of it, now knowing what to do, not knowing how to act but feeling guilt and shame and anger and fear. I love the way that the story mixes something that is incredibly disturbing and gives it such an adorably frightening name like Wombly. Because the Womblys are terrifying, are being that transform people into different materials. Into tin or concrete or soil. Or, in the case of the main character in this story and her family, into soap. It's a great and disturbing image, watching someone transform, their body locking, their entire person consumed by it. And it's equally disturbing that this is something that some people seek out. That it feels in some ways like this was brought home on purpose to join the family together. That the father visits it on one daughter and the mother, but that the main character, the other daughter, is spared. And what comes from that is unsettling and dark as all hells. [SPOILERS] So this setting is messed right the fuck up, with Womblys running amok and people constantly at risk. In the street. That getting a Wombly can make people forcibly pass it to others in hopes of losing it before it does too much harm. It's a story about the ugliness that people can visit on one another, even their own families, and the dilemma of one girl who is expected to want to take a Wombly from her mother, want that despite everything, and can't bring herself to. It is a great examination of her guilt and fear and hope and the truly awful situation she is in. A very strange but very good read!